Science is much more than just doing research. Especially at a time when science plays a key role in social issues such as climate change and coronavirus, it is important that people understand how science works, and that researchers speak out about their work. Yet for many scientists, communication is still a secondary concern. To reward researchers who do their best to share their work with the outside world, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) has awarded more than 90 communication projects from across the country with 10,000 euros each. Two of the projects are from researchers at TU/e.
One of the projects is by Heleen de Coninck, Auke Hoekstra and Anna Wieczorek, experts in the field of sustainability. All three researchers have made their mark when it comes to science communication.
Debunking fake news
Heleen de Coninck, co-author of the UN climate panel (IPCC), is in the media almost every week, is active on Twitter (@HeleendeConinck) and gives almost weekly lectures on climate change. Auke Hoekstra is also an avid user of social media (@AukeHoekstra), where he passionately debunks spreaders of fake news in the field of electric cars. Finally, Anna Wieczorek was recently awarded a prize by the EU for the way she involves citizens in her research.
Heleen de Coninck is pleased with the KNAW’s recognition of the efforts of scientists to interact with the public. “Anna, Auke and many other researchers are all working from their own fields to inform people, and get them involved in a more sustainable world. We’re going to use the money to pass that along to our PhD students.”
Blogging About nanotechnology
The second project is by researcher Bart Macco of the Applied Physics. He is co-initiator of AtomicLimits, an online blog platform for scientists in the field of nanotechnology, such as computer chips, solar cells and batteries.
Macco: “We distinguish ourselves from other blogs by focusing on original content of high quality and with news value. Our blogs often tell the stories behind the science: How did we come to this discovery? What are the trends in the field? How does the collaboration between science and industry work? You don’t read those things in scientific publications”.
In this process, imagery plays an important role. “We are convinced that images and graphics are very important for effectively conveying scientific results and their impact, especially to the wider public.” The blog already has more than 6,000 visits per month.
The KNAW has set up the Gewaardeerd! (Appreciated!) program in order to give science communication by researchers an extra boost. It is part of an effort by the Dutch academic world to value researchers not only for their research, but also for their other activities, such as education, leadership and impact on society.